Tag Archives: iTunes

Sound of Summer

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The best archivist I ever knew was also a coder and my best friend. Her name was Chloe Weil.

Recently, Chloe committed suicide. It is a tragedy for many reasons. She was stunning. She wowed people with her creativity. In everything Chloe did, she left a piece of herself in it. This made her work feel authentic, thoughtful and personal. Her work let others into her world. On her blog Chloe wrote 101-word journal entries, guided us through her artistic process and shared some really cool web projects. Chloe has left behind an online archive that is almost as rich and profound as the girl we loved being around. This post and my next will show off two of Chloe’s web based projects that expanded my ideas about sharing personal archives online.

I have been meaning to write about Chloe’s work on Library Manifesto for a while. I haven’t until now because she was too great a writer. No one could explain her work better than she did. Her posts were always humorous, conversational and succinct. She explained highly technical web projects in accessible ways and used her personal life to make web jargon more relatable.

"Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys." - Chloe Weil

“Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys.” – Chloe Weil

Chloe loved music. She was sometimes a human version of Shazam – she could tell you the name of a band or artist playing overhead at a bar. Chloe knew more obscure bands than anyone else I knew in High School and anytime after. Her love of music and web development came to a head in 2012 with Sound of Summer. Sound of Summer came from Chloe’s urge to catalog the emotions of her life through sound. Put simply, Sound of Summer is a personal music archive that lists Chloe’s most played songs in her iTunes library, every summer, starting from 2001.

Chloe tracked all of her music intake. In High School she began using iTunes data fields in ways they weren’t intended; tagging and organizing songs by when she listened to them most. Chloe wrote, “To organize music based on artist or album or even year released is extrinsic; the music has always been about me.” While others would balk at sharing such personal details of their life, Chloe embraced it.

I encourage you to look at the site. You’ll be immediately drawn to a stack of coral colored columns, each representing a year between 2001 and 2013. Select a column for a year, say 2012, and you are taken to that year’s songs, 74 for 2012. You might look for songs you listened to that year too. If you click on a song a music player pops up displaying an animated beating heart while playing back a snippet of the song. The beating heart reminds me of Chloe’s playful details. The project introduced me to some amazing music I had never heard before from bands like The Stranglers and The Go-Betweens. I learn about a new band every time I go back to her site.

“Do you remember in High Fidelity when Rob is organizing his record collection autobiographically? That’s the closest analog to this model. Each of my season-year playlists has the emotions and experiences of that three-month moment encoded into every song it contains. I’ve inadvertently managed to create a detailed narrative of my life just from the way I ended up organizing my mp3s. If want to feel how I felt my freshman year of college, I just filter my library for 2003FALL and I get all the tracks I listened to then, all the emotions I’d experienced, and the general mood of that period in my life. Say I want to re-experience my first year in Portland, although I don’t know why I would want to live through that again. I filter my library to 2009 and get 2009SPR, 2009SUM, 2009FALL, and 2009WIN. Say I only want to experience every summer of the past ten years. I filter my library by SUM and I’m having those rich emotional experiences again.”

I’ve listened to Chloe’s most played songs over the last 13 summers. I will never know what it felt like to be her but when I listen I get through to another layer of her identity. It helps me understand her a little bit better each time. Chloe made something emotional, scientific and vice versa.

Here’s Chloe’s conclusion from her technical write up. I’ve included it because I find it inspirational.

“There were entire weekends spent typing the same commands in the terminal, entire evenings spent refreshing the browser without accomplishing anything. But all it takes is one right thing to move forward, whether it’s modifying one line of code, or approaching your problem from a different point of view.”

Photo: Chloe and me at a summer music concert. Taken by Ruchi.
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Music Nerd Meets Archivist

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Anti-Gravity Bunny is, to paraphrase it’s author, a music blog of one dude who loves sharing music that’s crazy awesome and/or under-represented. That dude is Justin, an archives student, and he’s not shy about his compulsion for mp3 organization. Justin’s perfectionist ways attracted me to his post “Music Nerd Meets Archivist: A Guide to Cataloging An Unwieldy Digital Music Collection.” In this guided tour of his personal library schema, Justin describes his iTunes protocols, tagging tendencies, and love of metadata. After reading of his scrupulous methodology, I can no longer describe myself as detail-oriented.

Below, I’ve outlined a few tips from the post that not only demonstrate Justin’s natural affinity and passion for archiving, but inspire me to rethink my own iTunes library practices. This is just a start, for more read Justin’s full post here.

On a related note, what 160GBs of music looks like.

5 Ways To Get Your Digital Music Collection In Order (Selections from Anti-Gravity-Bunny:)

1. Standards Matter

“Everything in my library from the moment it gets imported needs to have at the VERY least the artist, album, and song fields filled. If it’s in all caps, I change it.”…“I normalize the artist to match the way it’s represented in my library (add or remove “The,” etc).”…“If the song titles have track numbers, I get rid of them (and make sure the “Track Number” fields are filled).”

2. Fields Are For Filling

“I wanted to include a lot more data in the tags than iTunes would allow and there wasn’t much leeway with other fields. Like BPM.” 

Anti-Gravity Bunny Catalog

3. Develop A Context

“Every album needs to have the year it was released, the label, artwork, and a genre that’s meaningful to me. I also don’t just want the original year of release, I want the date specific to the copy that I have.”

4. Future Compatibility

“Just because I currently use iTunes, I know that the application won’t last forever (nor will my mp3s). So I make every attempt to utilize the mp3 fields that iTunes recognizes and none that other applications don’t.”

5. Make your work searchable

”If I’ve learned anything from this project, it’s that the “Sorting” tab is my best friend.”

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